Earlier this month, President H. Kim Bottomly announced three pillars to guide Wellesley for the next five years: academic excellence, the value of liberal arts and community. These pillars are based on conversations that the president has had with members of the community during the past eight years of her tenure and are intended to bolster the College’s institutional strength. While a work in progress, these three pillars invites the community to ponder Wellesley’s future. The Wellesley News accepts this invitation.
In “Wellesley in Five: A Framework for 2020 and Beyond,” Bottomly calls for the College to focus on strengthening academics and keeping our curriculum relevant in college-to-career transitions. Finally, she states that our community should continue to be a “vibrant and inclusive community.”
In regard to academic excellence, the College should aim to enroll students of all diversities: ethnic, religious, gender, socioeconomic and ideological. Likewise, our world-class faculty should reflect this diversity or at least be trained to benefit from it. Moreover, our curriculum should provide more classes that target issues of diversity, from disability to ethnic studies. Wellesley should also offer more research opportunities that provide funding for students on financial aid.
The pursuit of education outside of the classroom should not be a luxury, but an opportunity. Unfortunately, the quality of education continues to be tied to socioeconomic status. Some students have experienced financial aid cuts that force them to transfer out of Wellesley. If Wellesley hopes to retain the best students, it must be affordable, so that future students will be crippled by student debt.
One of the most debated values of a Wellesley education is its liberal arts module. In an increasingly technological world, we are seeing STEM majors grow in value. Wellesley is now facing the obstacle of establishing its relevance in the career-driven 21st century, in which large research universities grow in power and small liberal arts colleges must defend their curriculums. Undoubtedly, we have successful alums. However, in order to establish the value of a Wellesley education, we need better college-to-career programs incorporated aggressively into academic lives. We pride ourselves on the W Network, but we often see this as only a resource for seniors looking for jobs. The Center for Work and Service should match students with alumni and hold more conferences on campus to put students in contact with them. Finally, while the CWS mostly focuses on summer internships, it should also look to establishing a Wintersession career-immersion programs.
Finally, Wellesley must answer the question, “What is the value or demonstrated need of a women’s college?” With five of the Seven Sisters remaining women’s colleges, it is important that we defend the worth of a women’s college. Additionally, the College should accept trans women as soon as possible — by the class of 2020. We cannot say we are accepting of the gender spectrum and claim to be a women’s college if we exclude individuals who identify as women.
There are many other issues that Wellesley must face and remedy in the coming years. For example, we need more student spaces, more forums for “reasoned discourse” and more collaboration among student organizations. Class Councils should be involved more in building a sense of community. The College should compensate student leaders in residential life and College Government. So, Bottomly’s three guiding pillars are only general frameworks. To create concrete change, the College must take specific and timely actions.